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Cacciatore, Hold the Chicken!

16 Aug

Since becoming a vegetarian I learned how to make all kinds of recipes without meat, and this has become a favorite. Summer time in New Jersey means lots of fresh local vegetables including eggplant, peppers and the famous Jersey tomatoes all of which I used in this recipe. Now I know most of you think of New Jersey as crowded and dirty, with bad drivers but in fact, there is a lot of farmland and beautiful rolling hills. We have lots of local farmers markets where we can get everything from local produce to homemade pies. (We are called the Garden State for a reason.)

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This is the perfect summer time pasta dish that is light, has lots of taste and loaded with healthy veggies!

eggplant-cacciatore

Just a few notes-I peeled the eggplant, I don’t like the skin but it’s up to you. You can use your favorite mushrooms, I used baby Portobello, just about any kind will do. Finally, instead of the 14 oz can of diced tomatoes I used fresh Jersey tomatoes.

 

Ingredients:

1 lb eggplant, sliced into 1/4 thick slabs

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

6 oz dried penne pasta

1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced

1 small onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 14 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp capers

1 Tbsp fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dry

1/2 tsp dry oregano

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub eggplant slabs with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake until eggplant are slightly browned and tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

 

While eggplant is baking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to instructions. Drain when done and return pot, toss with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.

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While eggplant bakes and pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and  place over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes more. Add garlic and sauté’ for another minute. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until liquid is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and add eggplant, simmer 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Serve over pasta with a salad, crusty bread and a glass of delicious wine!

Thank you to Connoisseurusveg.com for this recipe and the photo of the final dish, mine didn’t look quite as good.

 

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Summer Salad Series III: Hearty Roasted Veggie Salad

28 Jun

This is the perfect salad for a healthy summer meal, the potatoes and chick peas make it a bit heartier than a typical salad. For those of you who need protein you can always add chicken or salmon. And the balsamic dressing for this salad is super simple and really delicious, you should definitely keep it handy and use it for other salads!

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Ingredients-Salad:

12 asparagus spears, ends cut off and cut in half

1 cup red potatoes, quartered

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs balsamic nectar or vinegar

Salt and pepper

2 cups arugula or baby spring greens (I’m not a fan of arugula)

1 avocado, sliced

1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts, halved

1/3 cup canned chick peas, drained and rinsed

Ingredients-Dressing:

4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs balsamic nectar or vinegar

1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pinch of dried oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the potatoes and asparagus in the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roast the potatoes on a baking sheet for 20 minutes, tossing once or twice during that time. Add the asparagus to the potatoes and roast for another 10 minutes. Once the vegetables are done remove from oven, let cool for a bit.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

To assemble, grab a nice big bowl; add lettuces, then add the rest of vegetables and sprinkle with the chick peas. Whisk the dressing before drizzling it over the salad and there you have it! Super easy, super healthy and super yummy!

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*Napkin by Patio Fashions

Recipe from Pumpkin and Peanut Butter

Part II: Eggplant Rollatini

25 Oct

Hands down one of my all time favorite meals ever! And this is the first time I have ever made it and to make it with my homemade sauce made it even better. Thank you to Vodka and Biscuits for the great recipe, the only thing I changed was using fresh spinach versus frozen.

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Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants

kosher salt, as needed

pepper, as needed

15 oz. part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 package fresh, organic baby spinach-torn into pieces

1 egg, beaten

1 T chopped parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced

pinch red pepper flakes

2 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

To make:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the the stem end of the eggplant, I also like mine peeled but it is up to you. Using a meat slicer, mandolin or chef’s knife , cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4″ inch slices. Generously sprinkle both sides with kosher salt and to “sweat” for 15 to 20 minutes.

Rinse each slice with water and pat dry. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay slices on a baking sheet and bake 10 -12 minutes.

In a bowl combine ricotta cheese, parsley, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, torn spinach and red pepper flakes. Taste for flavor before adding egg. Once you like the flavor, add egg and mix well.

Cover bottom of baking dish with a thin layer of sauce.

To roll the eggplant, place a heaping spoonful of ricotta mix on a slice of eggplant, roll and place in the sauce. Continue making the eggplant rolls and place them in the baking dish.

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Cover the eggplant rolls with the remaining sauce and top with shredded mozzarella. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

I served mine with spaghetti of course…just had to have the carbs. My husband said it was the best dish I had ever made, can’t beat that!

*Sorry about the crappy photos, one of my New Years’s resolutions for the coming year is better blog photos.

 

 

Summer Veggie Lasagna

20 Jul

Lasagna is comfort food which usually means winter, it is cheesy, hot and gooey. Well, this is my vegetable lasagna made from lots of summer veggies, because sometimes you need that ooey, gooey, comfort food in the summer. And I know most vegetable lasagna is made with a white sauce but I make mine just like the traditional with a red sauce and it is delicious!

Homemade sauce with fresh from the garden herbs!

Homemade sauce with fresh from the garden herbs!

Sauce:

1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz can tomato sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 Tbs freshly chopped parsley

1 Tbs freshly chopped basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large sauce pan over medium heat add olive oil and chopped onions, cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, parsley, basil, salt and pepper, stir until combined. Bring to a boil and turn down to a low simmer and cook for another 30 minutes. While the sauce cooks you can get the vegetables ready and cook the lasagna noodles.

Noodles:

10 lasagna noodles (I cook one extra just in case…)

Olive oil

Bring large pot of water to a boil, add about 1 Tbs olive oil and add noodles, cook according to package directions, you will want them to be al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Cooking up the veggies.

Cooking up the veggies.

Vegetables:

1 large zucchini, cut into small cubes

1 large yellow squash, cut into small cubes

1 8 oz container baby bella mushrooms, cut into small cubes

1/2 bag baby spinach

1 Tbs olive oil

*You can also add some red or green peppers if you like that flavor.

Heat olive oil in large saute pan, add zucchini, yellow squash and cook for about 4 minutes then add mushrooms. Cook vegetables till soft and tender. The vegetables will release quite a bit of liquid, drain this so that the lasagna isn’t too watery. When the vegetables are cooked and drained add them to the sauce.

To assemble the lasagna you will need:

1 16 oz block of mozzarella, sliced thinly

1 8 oz container ricotta cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9″ x 13″ pan cover the bottom of the pan in thin layer of sauce, place 3 noodles length wise in the pan and cover with the vegetable sauce, add a layer of baby spinach, spoon ricotta cheese over the spinach and then the mozzarella cheese, repeat. You will have 3 layers of noodles with the top being the mozzarella cheese.

Cover with tin foil and place in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until slightly browned. Let it sit for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread…you’re all set. Enjoy!

Finished product...I left it in the oven just a tad too long.

Finished product…I left it in the oven just a tad too long.

 

Summer Fresh Veggie Pasta

27 Jun

I love pasta. I love artichokes and asparagus. If you love all of those things then you will love this dish! It is great summertime dish that is quick and easy. The freshness of the lemon and crisp summer vegetables are just delicious in the light cream sauce.

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8 ounces of your favorite pasta-cooked according to package directions

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed, cut in half

1 Bundle asparagus, sliced into small pieces

1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 or 2 cloves of garlic, depends on your taste for garlic

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup milk, I used 2% but you can use whatever you prefer

Salt and pepper to taste

Shaved parmesan cheese

Put olive oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add asparagus and lemon juice, cook for about 5 minutes and then add artichoke hearts. Cook together for about another 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Add butter to pan and melt, add garlic to melted butter. Saute until garlic is fragrant. Add flour and stir, the mixture will thicken. Slowly add milk and keep stirring until the mixture becomes smooth. Add drained pasta and stir to coat. Stir in vegetables and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with grated parmesan cheese, lemon slice and enjoy!

Rub-A-Dub-Dub a Brisket in the Oven

14 Jun

A brisket is one more thing I have always wanted to make and I finally did it. I really wanted to do it on the grill but I was making at my brothers house and his grill ran out of propane…ugh. But no worries, I did it in the oven and it was delicious; just the way it should be; tender, lots of flavor and moist. I looked up several ways to make it, from the rub recipes to how to cook it and this is what I came up with.

Brisket in a bag.

Brisket in a bag

Dry Rub

3 Tbs chili powder

1 Tbs sea salt

2 tsp black pepper

2 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp dried mustard

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried thyme

 

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.

I used a 3.5 lb brisket. Wash the brisket and dry with paper towels. Rub the dry ingredients on both sides of the meat. Put the brisket a plastic bag (squeezing out excess air as you seal it). I put mine in the fridge over night, you can do it for less time but I recommend at least 6 hours to let the meat soak in the flavors.

For cooking time plan for about 1 hour and 15 minutes for every pound at 250 degrees. Low and slow.

Take the brisket out of the fridge about 45 minutes before you want to cook it to bring it to room temperature. Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees, place the brisket fat side up in a shallow baking dish. I planned on cooking mine for 4 hours. Place in the oven and let it do it’s thing.

Now, I watched several BBQ shows on the Food Network and almost all of the award winning BBQ pit masters would wrap the meat in foil the last hour or so of cooking. So, I did that too and I really think that  is what kept it from drying out. After 3 hours I wrapped it in foil and put it back in the oven, let it cook for another hour.

When I took the meat out to wrap it in the foil there was a lot of wonderful juice in the pan, I saved this and put it on side to pour over the meat when it was served.

Perfectly sliced!

Perfectly sliced!

And in true Southern style I served it with macaroni & cheese and coleslaw. It was absolutely delicious and we had brisket sandwiches with the leftovers!

 

One Last Soup before Spring…

20 Mar

So, I sit here writing this on the first day of Spring and it is snowing out. When will it end? Hopefully soon but until it does, let’s eat soup. This recipe is a copy cat recipe of Olive Garden’s famous Pasta e Fagioli, meaning “pasta and beans”, it is traditionally a meatless Italian dish however this recipe adds ground beef but I stuck with tradition and left the meat out, which makes this a great meal for meatless Mondays. This is easy, healthy and makes a great meal, definitely give a whirl!

Pasta e Fagioli with shaved parmesan cheese-buon appetito!

Pasta e Fagioli with shaved parmesan cheese-buon appetito!

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef* (I omitted)

2 tbsp olive oil (if not using meat)

1 small onion

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced

28oz can crushed tomatoes

15oz can tomato sauce

15oz can beef broth (vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian)**you may want more depending on how you like it

15oz can kidney beans (with liquid)

15oz can great northern beans (with liquid)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp pepper

8oz ditalini pasta

*with the salt, pepper and dried herbs-increase or decrease depending on taste

Heat olive oil large dutch oven or pot, add carrots, celery, onion and sauté for about 10 minutes then add minced garlic. Saute for a few more minutes until garlic becomes fragrant.

Add remaining ingredients, except the pasta and simmer for 1 hour.

You may want to add more broth at this point depending on how you like it.

About 15 minutes before the hour is up, boil water for pasta and cook pasta for 10 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Now, a tip from a friend is: to not add the pasta to the soup…add it as you eat it so that it doesn’t blow up in the soup and absorb all the liquid. This was great advice. I kept mine in storage container and added as we ate it. Serve with shaved parmesan cheese and warm, crusty bread; delicious!

*If you would like to do the meat version the first thing you do is cook the ground beef until browned, drain the grease. Set browned ground beef aside and cook veggies as above in same pot, when veggies are ready, add ground beef back into pot and follow the recipe from there. Enjoy!

 

 

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